Today’s Solutions: February 03, 2023


The Syrian war has displaced more than 2 million citizens, and there are about 45 million refugees worldwide. The average time a refugee will spend in a refugee camp is 12 years, and the tents that many refugees live in are usually replaced every 6 months. Such a high rate of turnover, combined with the years average refugees spend living in the encampment, makes it easy to see that more stable and permanent living accommodations would be of great benefit to refugees and relief organizations. The Swedish design firm Ikea, through their work with various partners has developed a living structure that’s cheap, scalable, and lasts for 3 years.
The Refugee Housing Unit started designing temporary housing tailored for use in refugee camps in 2008. While their initial intentions were ambitious, the unit soon realized they lacked funding and access to humanitarian agencies that knew what was needed most when developing temporary refugee housing. So they partnered with the Ikea Foundation and The UN Refugee Agency to provide capital and insight needed to design temporary housing for the 21st century.
Ikea’s signature minimalistic design and tool-free assembly play a big part in the appeal of the new temporary shelter. The 188 square-foot shelter can be assembled in 4 hours, packs and ships in 1 flat box, has 2 power outlets, a light, and a USB charging port, all powered by a small solar panel on the shelter’s roof. Current refugee tents are void of interior lights and power outlets that make the upgrade to the new housing design even more favorable.
Ikea’s intentions are good, but there is still much work to be done before the shelter finds its way to refugee camps on a large scale. Replacing parts of pre-fab shelters can be costly and difficult, and the shelter has yet to prove its resistance to extreme weather conditions. Prototypes of Ikea’s new shelter are being tested at a refugee camp in Ethiopia where families who inhabit them play a direct roll in developments and changes made to the dwellings. You can find out more about the housing project and the shelter on the Ikea Foundation’s website.
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